Friday, August 29, 2008

Stephen Colbert versus Giant Styrofoam Cup was brilliant.

That is all.

New Chick Tract!

First Blood. Early Halloween preparations. And I never thought I'd say this, but: I find it completely charming. It's goofy, funny, cute, and not hateful. I want it to be made into a major motion picture. Igor and Faith make SUCH a cute couple. I also love Satan's blasé attitude in the second-last panel. I'm not sure if making The Adversary into an appealing character is a good rhetorical choice, but I like it. The bad guys in general are pretty benign. More wacky and bumbling than evil. The artist is obviously an old stand-by, but I have to think ChickCo has gotten itself a new writer, and I approve.



It appears under on amazon under the book's listing, but not on my profile itself. What be the deal, peepz?

When I first read Dhalgren, at the tender age of nineteen, I was blown away. I wasn't a particularly ambitious reader at the time, but, due to the SF label (applied due to Delany's prior record, even though it's not really science fiction), I was lured in by this massive, intellectually challenging tome, and I was absolutely taken with it. Never having come face-to-face with such an intellect, my critical faculties weren't really fully in gear. Coming back to the novel nine years later--hopefully at least a BIT less callow!--I think I am better able to understand and appreciate what Delany does well while at the same time remaining keenly aware of his failings. I imagine he's very rarely not the smartest guy in any given room, but that doesn't make him infallible.

The basic premise is irresistible, and it's more or less borne out by the book iteslf. The portrait of a society come loose from its moorings (that has, essentially, lost its historical context) and the people who live therein is very finely-drawn. From the Richards family's hysterical efforts to retain a no-longer-operative order, to the Scorpions' somewhat aimless quasi-gang anomie, to Roger Calkins' attempts at experimenting with social order by setting up his own little fiefdom, to the defiantly utopian menage à trois at the center of the novel, very few stones are left unturned in this regard. I think it bears comparisons to Pynchon's recent Against the Day, which depicts a similar kind of societal breakdown, albeit without the city metaphor.

Furthermore, Delany is really smart in terms of race, sexuality, and gender, and the ways in which such concepts become warped and distorted when the society propping them up is abruptly no longer in a position to do any such thing. The gangbang scene in the last section is more profound than a gangbang scene has any right to be.

ALL THAT SAID: this is far from a perfect novel, and most of that has to do with the central character, the nameless Kid, who just isn't a very compelling or likable guy. One gets the strong impression that he represents a kind of adolescent wish fulfillment ("poet, lover, and adventurer"), especially as regards his prodigious sexual exploits. Many of the secondary characters--eg, Tak, Bunny, Nightmare--are interesting and sympathetic, but they are not the focus of the novel. Kid is, and this gets old after a while. I can't tell you how cathartic I found the section in which fellow poet Frank absolutely tears his poetry apart. And I don't think that such catharsis was Delany's intention.

Furthermore, the aforementioned sex is so omnipresent that it becomes exhausting. Kid's stamina is well beyond that of any human to ever have walked the earth; this may go along with the utopian aspect of the novel, but it also kinda had the effect of making me want to never have sex again, which I can't imagine was the point. His primary partners, Lanya and Denny, are less annoying than he himself is, but they aren't all that interesting either, and I found that one of the novel's central ideas--that a free'n'easy relationship like this can rise above, transcend, and in some way redeem all the chaos around it--was thus undermined by my general indifference.

Delany is a great writer. There's no denying that much. I think "to wound the autumnal city" surely deserves to go down with "a screaming comes across the sky" as one of the all-time great opening lines. But I don't know, at this point in his career, that he was necessarily capable of adequately controlling that gift. There are numerous passages that, while technically impressive, amount to what it might be fair, given the novel's preoccupations, to describe as verbal masturbation. I won't lie to you: it gets old after a certain point, especially in the somewhat gimmicky (if often effective) last section.

But I don't want to get too down on the novel. If it seems like I am, that's probably just because it's easier to criticize than to praise. There is no denying that it stays with you; in places it is luminous, Delany's indulgences aside--and how many really ambitious novels are devoid of self-indulgence? It's no Gravity's Rainbow (which may however be an unfair comparison); still, I think it deserves to go down as one of the better products of postmodern seventies counterculture.

Sara Who?

"Hi, I'm John McCain. Remember all that stuff about experience being VITAL for a President and about how we shouldn't take Obama seriously because he's a celebrity? Well guess what, my friends? My contempt for you is so absolute that I'm no longer even going to do you the courtesy of pretending that that was ever anything more than cynical bullshit. And I'm pretty certain that you're too stupid to even notice, given your track record. Prove me wrong, bitches. Here's my impression of how I think this decision is going to affect you: DUUURRRRR HAWT CHICK ME VOTE MCCAIN. That, my friends, is leadership we can believe in."

Lobsters we can believe in

My favorite McCain catchphrase is "my friends, that's not change we can believe in," because it's so relentlessly inane on the face of it, and because when he says it he always sounds as if he's addressing himself to a particularly thick-witted toddler. However, I just discovered that it's even funnier if you say it in the voice of Dr. Zoidberg. My friends! That's not change we can believe in! If anyone can provide a voice clip of Billy West saying it as such, I will sacrifice to you many hecatombs of cattle.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Stephen Colbert just used the word "pussy" on the air, and it went uncensored.


Kerry really lights into McCain in a way that B. Clinton did not (Clinton did the usual spiel about how McCain is patriotic loves America et al--okay so maybe for diplomacy's sake, you can't actually come out and call him a fucking asshole, but he IS one, and there's really no need to lay on the fake praise so thick), and he's being pretty badass in general. Pretty great; regardless of charisma, I'm remembering why I liked that guy in 2004.

Off-the-cuff music criticism

Melissa Etheridge doing a medley of little snippets of patriotic and/or pacifistic songs is not a pleasant aural experience. We may have all the good tunes, but you wouldn't know it from the programming.

Conventional weirdness

For some reason I'm watching delegates voting on cspan, and it's the most surreal thing ever. They have this incredibly smiley, elementary-school-teacher type in charge of the proceedings, who is always deeply, DEEPLY excited to introduce each state and who always effusively thanks each delegation for their wonderful delegates, to the extent that she almost sound like she's being sarcastic. And every time she calls on another delegation--one by one, very, very slowly--a representative gets up and tells us allegedly fascinating state-related facts before telling how they're dividing their votes. The Louisiana woman just quoted Hank Williams. Then the Maine guy had this weird self-deprecation thing going on. Maybe this is how they always do this, but it's still sort of hilarious.

Ha ha--the Massachusetts representative introduced her state as home of the "championship Red Sox, championship Celtics, and the New England Patriots." Because the Patriots AREN'T CHAMPIONS, plain and simple! And everyone knows it!

Minnesota, on the other hand, is the home of a winning women's college hockey team. I just learned that. So there.

Seriously, are all these people REALLY that proud of their states, or are they just goofing around?

I'm looking forward to learning what's so great about Pennsylvania.

OH NOES! The New Mexico dude is speaking IN SPANISH! Someone alert Tom Tancredo!

Ooh...Hillary moves that all voting be suspended and Obama be nominated "by acclimation." THAT ain't gonna make the PUMAs happy. But then, what would? And anyway, there's only four or five of them total anyway at this point.

And everyone roars out in favor of Obama and that's that. I've gotta admit: that move was REALLY, REALLY effective theater. Well done. But I'm annoyed that Pennsylvania didn't get its moment in the sun.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Man, don't even TRY to argue over Delaware.

It is SO in the bag.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beware off-brand Bible tracts

So I found this tract at a ballgame the other day. Don't get me wrong; I'm happy to find ANY Bible tracts, but I have to say, a part of me was kind of offended that the anonymous donor didn't care enough about my soul to invest in the real thing. And the truly sad thing is that, if you browse through the Fellowship Tract League website, you'll see that, though not spectacularly brilliant, "I'll Do it Later" is actually one of their best efforts (here's another good one)--if nothing else, I aim to use the immortal phrase "because of your neglect, we have lost much income!" as often as possible. Most of them, however, are entirely text-based, which as far as I'm concerned takes lameness to a new level. I ask you: who's gonna accept Jesus etc without a fun comic narrative?

While I am, in theory, in favor of small upstart indie firms with a vision taking on the might of ChickCo, the results speak for themselves. Unlike Chick Tracts, FTL tracts are free, but you really do get what you pay for, and I've gotta say--if saving my immortal soul isn't worth a lousy fifteen cents to you, I really have to question your commitment to the cause.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Transfiguration of the Muscle Thing

You remember MUSCLE, right? Of course you do. I'm not really sure why we called them "Muscle Things;" I think it was Joedat's nomenclature. He got quite agitated whenever his mother would refer to them as "Muscle Men." They were quite popular during a certain segment of my misbegotten youth. What happened to all the ones I had? Not sure, unfortunately. HOWEVER: the other day, one of the dogs found one god-knows-where in the backyard--one upon which we had inflicted the torments of the damned:

For those of you keeping track at home, that's a large nail through his torso; a medium-sized nail through his left leg just above his foot; small nails through his crotch, right arm, and lower-right leg; and what appears to be a broken nail through his right knee. Also, we beheaded him, which does seem to be adding insult to injury. Still: Jesus eat your heart out. THIS is dying-for-our-sins done RIGHT.

UPDATE: a google search reveals that "Muscle Things" is a term in moderately wide use. Huh.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I listen to Christian radio.

96.3, Light for Life. Good times. Today I was listening to one of their little news segments, which was about a California court ruling that fertility clinics can't discriminate against gays. Naturally, this being more specifically Right-Wing Asshole Christian radio, this left them aghast, and they quoted some dude who said, quote: this ruling is a major blow to the rights of all Americans.

Hmm. Yes, I suppose it's a blow to your ability to feel smug in the knowledge that you have more freedoms than them there hellbound gheys, but I really don't think that's a "right," per se. At any rate, you'd have to point me to the part of the Constitution that provides for it. BUT EVEN IF YOU COULD: "all Americans?" How 'bout leaving me out of your little two-minute hate, k?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Did you hear the news about Edwards?

You may think that's a fairly ordinary title, but I'll have you know it's actually a Tom Waits lyric. Just so we're clear.

Edwards' family situation really isn't anyone's fucking business, of course: if he was deceiving his wife, he's a scumbag, of course; if they had some sort of understanding, perhaps not. We can't know and we don't have any RIGHT to know. Since as far as I know, he didn't spend time bleating about the importance of Fambly Values, there's not even the hypocrisy angle. What he is, though, is a selfish dickhead. One would think that after the whole Clinton impeachment circus he would have known better. Sure, marriages come in many different forms, rules of proper sexual conduct within them may legitimately vary, and blahdy fucking blah. But Edwards is not stupid: the bottom line is, even if what he was doing wasn't violating a trust (not that I see any real reason to give him the benefit of the doubt on the matter), the public ain't gonna go for that, and he knew it. Regardless of what individual people may do, we have a very simplistic national conception of sexual morality, and if you want to be a successful politician, you just have to fucking deal with it. Put the country's interests above your own for once, for gods' sake.

I want to imagine that if Kerry had been elected, he would have been more circumspect in his role as vice president--if he hadn't, we would be fucked right about now--but I sort of doubt it: after all, it's no more irresponsible than running for President having just had an affair. We would be SO screwed right now had he somehow won the nomination. Talk about putting ego above anything else.

I do think he probably would have made a pretty good President--better than Obama, probably--but nope, sorry, too late. Now he's just an asshole.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I write letters to the editor

Some dude wrote a letter to the Sun-Duhzette. It was a bad letter, as they so often are, but this passage in particular went well beyond the call of duty:

Most U.S. citizens are ambivalent about torture because they know it is used only in extreme instances. These are the same people who remember the 3,000 horrifying deaths of 9/11. Our government does not use torture indiscriminately and our commander-in-chief has the responsibility to decide what instances merit it.

Torture+thinly-veiled authoritarian tendencies=two great tastes that taste great together! So I had to respond, and what's notable about my response is that they published it completely unedited. This is rare: they almost always cut stuff out of your letters, sometimes rendering them borderline incoherent. That they did not do so in this case suggests to me that whatever intern they have going over their submissions read mine and thought "right on," which is encouraging to me.

J. Richard Wertz writes that "most US citizens are ambivalent about torture," and goes on to suggest that Americans are in favor of some amount of torture. Whether this is true depends on how one defines "American." If it simply means "US citizen" and nothing more, then it's true--some Americans DO support torture. If, however, one takes it to mean "people who believe in America's ideals and refuse to compromise these ideals under any circumstances"--let's call these people "Real Americans"--then no, Americans don't support torture. None of them.

In fact, those Americans-in-name-only who do are detestable, unprincipled cowards whose tough talk about the need to protect the country at any cost is no more than a desperate effort to hide the fact that they would willingly--nay, eagerly--sell out any ideal, no matter how deeply held, if there were even a tiny chance that it would make them .001 percent safer. These are the people whom Benjamin Franklin had in mind when he accurately noted that "those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." If they had any shame, they would be deeply ashamed of themselves.

Real Americans are man or woman enough to firmly state that torture is an evil act that corrodes both our individual and our national souls, and that it is not acceptable under any circumstances--and they would hold fast to this principle even if there were any evidence that it were even slightly effective, because they wish to live in a free country and are willing to accept whatever risks that might entail. They recognize that if we are using "but we're not as bad as Saddam!" as our defense--as so many False Americans do--then the war for America's soul is already lost.

Wertz goes on to refer to the President as "our Commander-in-Chief." This is inaccurate. The President is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. Since the US is not a military dictatorship, civilians do not have a Commander-in-Chief--and if Real Americans have anything to say about it, it will forever stay that way.

Some have accused me of being a little uncivil here, but I just can't respect anyone who holds these kinds of views. And anyway, I resisted the urge to characterize him and people like him as sniveling cowards--that's MAD civility right there!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

This post is completely vapid yet deeply necessary.

This avclub blog entry has alerted me to the disturbing fact that there are people--a LOT of people, apparently--who find Maggie Gyllenhaal unattractive. Okay, so you need only look at our government to realize that there are a lot of people in this country with very poor judgment, but if you need a final piece of evidence that there is something deeply diseased about our national psyche, here it is. At the least, it becomes obvious that there is something very fucked up about our standards of beauty.

I mean SERIOUSLY people:

How is she not the most adorable creature you have ever laid eyes on?